Dems end deadlock, House sends Biden infrastructure bill

 


The bipartisan infrastructure bill is finally on its way to President Biden’s desk.

After months of intense debate between Democrats’ warring factions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday secured passage of an approximately $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports, broadband, and other public works.

The Senate approved the measure on a bipartisan basis in early August, but the legislation then languished in the House as liberal lawmakers refused to back the measure without assurances that Biden’s broader social spending package would be approved.

The infrastructure package contains $550 billion in entirely new investments, including money for electric-car charging stations and zero-emission school buses. The spending is mostly paid for — without raising taxes. The bulk of the funding comes from repurposing unspent coronavirus relief money and tightening enforcement on reporting gains from cryptocurrency investments. The bill would add about $256 billion to the debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

$550 billion in new investments

Almost half of the $1.2 trillion package is going toward new investments in transportation, utilities and pollution remediation.

= 1 billion

Transportation

$284 billion

Utilities

$240 billion

Roads and bridges

$110B

Power infrastructure

$65B

Broadband

$65B

Railroads

$66B

Water infrastructure

$55B

Public transit

$39B

Resilience

$47B

Airports $25B

Ports $17B

Electric vehicles $15B

Road safety $11B

Reconnecting

communities

$1B

Western water

infrastructure

$8B

Pollution

remediation

$21 billion

An additional $5 billion is made up of small provisions to aid different groups.

Source: Congressional Budget Office.

THE WASHINGTON POST

The plan garnered significant support from Democrats and Republicans.

Here is a rundown of what is in the 2,700 pages of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Total new spending: $550 billion

The bipartisan bill is a lot less than the $2.3 trillion Biden initially asked for in the spring, but it is still a significant amount of funding for the next five years. The senators often like to refer to the bill as a $1.2 trillion package because they are also counting funding that is normally allotted each year for highways and other projects.

The spending is partially paid for with unused coronavirus relief dollars, unused federal unemployment aid, sales of spectrum and oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased fees for some Superfund sites and customs, and delaying a Medicare expense for a year. Some money would also come from tighter enforcement to ensure cryptocurrency investors pay taxes once they sell and realize their gains. Budget experts say the bill is likely to add about $350 billion to the deficit over the next decade. On top of the CBO forecast, they say an additional $90 billion must be included since the bill “authorizes” that spending even though it is not technically counted as spent.

How many jobs would it create?

Senators and the White House are touting the huge number of jobs this bill would help generate. Many construction jobs do not require college degrees, though they do require some special skills. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimates the growth of about 660,000 jobs could result by 2025. Interestingly, construction has been one of the few industries with slow job growth in recent months. The bill includes funding and provisions to get more job training programs going and to get more women into the construction and trucking industries.

What happened with crypto?

The bill was held up for several days over a debate about a provision that would require more stringent reporting of cryptocurrency gains and losses to the IRS. The goal is to ensure crypto investors are paying taxes properly, but there was concern that the language was so broad that developers who worked on crypto would also face taxation. In the end, the Senate did not change the language in this bill, but the Treasury Department has vowed it will not go after the developers.

What are the other top-line numbers?

Roads and bridges: $110 billion. The biggest-ticket item in the bill is money for building and repairing roads and bridges across the country. Many senators are already touting projects in their home states that will benefit from the funding. Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were both instrumental in crafting the bipartisan plan, and it is notable that the bill includes specific funding earmarked for Appalachian and Alaskan highways. There is also funding for transportation research at universities, funding for Puerto Rico’s highways, and money for “congestion relief” efforts in cities.

Railroads: $66 billion. The U.S. passenger rail system, a favorite of Biden’s, receives a large chunk of funding for upgrades and maintenance. There is substantial funding earmarked for the Northeast Corridor, the heavily traveled route from Boston to D.C. The bill also has money for freight rail safety and calls for stations that average 40 passengers a day to have a station agent on duty. Some were disappointed that the bill does not specifically call for high-speed-rail investment as seen in other countries.

Power grid: $65 billion. The plan has substantial funding for “grid reliability and resiliency,” a fancy way of saying updates to older power lines and cables and investments in ways to ensure the power grid is not hacked. As part of the bill’s efforts to address climate change, the power-grid section also has funding to support the development and adaptation of clean-energy technology.

Broadband: $65 billion. There is a major focus in the bill on expanding broadband in rural areas and low-income communities. This has been a bipartisan priority for years, but the White House estimates that about 30 million Americans still do not have reliable Internet access, which became a major issue for schooling and work during the pandemic. About $14 billion of the funding would go toward making monthly Internet bills more affordable for low-income Americans.

Water (especially pipes): $55 billion. After the Flint, Mich., lead contamination crisis, there is a renewed focus on ensuring U.S. water infrastructure gets upgraded. The bill includes $15 billion specifically for lead-pipe replacement. There is also $10 billion to clean up man-made chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The bill also sets aside money for clean drinking water for tribal communities.

‘Resilience’: $47 billion. The resiliency funding falls mainly into two categories: cybersecurity and climate-change mitigation. There is funding to help protect infrastructure from attacks along with funding to address droughts, flooding, wildfire mitigation, coastal erosion, and other big issues affecting many parts of the nation as weather patterns become more extreme.

Public transit: $39 billion. Senators and the White House have been citing a Transportation Department estimate that 40 percent of buses and 23 percent of subway and rail cars are in poor shape. The funding would go a long way toward upgrades. There is also money for new bus routes and making public transit more accessible to seniors and Americans with disabilities.

Airports: $25 billion. Biden famously described New York City’s LaGuardia in 2014 as a “Third World country” airport. The bill contains funding for major upgrades and expansions at U.S. airports. About $5 billion would go specifically toward upgrading air traffic control towers and systems.

Remediation: $21 billion. This part of the bill includes funds to clean up brownfield and Superfund sites, abandoned mines, and old oil and gas wells that need to be plugged.

Ports: $17 billion. There is a significant investment in various port infrastructures. About half the money goes to the Army Corps of Engineers. There is also money for the Coast Guard and for ferry terminals and efforts to reduce truck emissions at ports.

Safety: $11 billion. The bulk of the funding in this section is for highway safety, but there is also funding for pedestrian safety, pipeline safety, and even ways to prevent vehicle incidents involving animals.

Western water infrastructure: $8 billion. As parts of the West continue to suffer droughts, the bill designates several billion to invest in water treatment, storage, and reuse facilities to help mitigate these issues. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was one of the major negotiators of the package, and her state is one of many in the West that has had drought issues in recent years.

Electric-vehicle charging stations: $7.5 billion. The United States has about 43,000 charging stations. Biden has set a goal of having half of the new cars electric by 2030, which will require significantly more charging stations across the nation.

Electric school buses: $7.5 billion. The bill makes a major push to replace existing school buses with zero-emissions buses. Specific funding is set aside to help lower-income, rural and tribal communities replace their bus fleets.

What else is in the bill?

There was a major lobbying frenzy for this package, and the result is many small provisions tucked in the bill to aid different groups. For example, there is funding for salmon recovery, requirements that states enforce laws that ban open alcoholic beverages in cars, and a provision allowing states to use some of their funding for recreational trails. There is also money for research on “wildlife crossing safety” and money for a “healthy streets” program to expand tree cover to mitigate urban heat. And, perhaps a favorite of avid train riders such as Biden, there is a line in the bill encouraging more food and beverage services on Amtrak routes, even if revenue does not break even.

The bill also attempts to fast-track permitting for infrastructure projects, an issue the Trump administration also attempted to address.

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